Don’t Bark Up the Wrong Tree! The Importance of Doing Your Research Before You Submit Your Manuscript

by jeanieransom on October 11, 2010

Would you wear a prom dress to a picnic? Hopefully not! Then why would you send a manuscript for a non-fiction picture book to a publisher that only publishes young adult novels?  Seriously, now, if you want to sell your manuscript, you have to research the market. And with all the resources available today – books, newsletters, the Internet — it’s easier than ever to find the proper place to submit your work.

When people ask Jeanie how to get published, she tells  that the one book any children’s writer needs is  Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, available at most major bookstores, as well as online ( and others). Besides being filled with articles about the “nuts and bolts” of submitting manuscripts, the book’s comprehensive listings of various publishers, their submissions policies, and what kinds of books they publish are a great starting place for identifying the best markets for your manuscript.

Jeanie likes to use a highlighter to mark the most likely markets for her various projects, then she writes the name of each project next to the targeted publishers. She submits to her “dream publisher” first – the top dog, if you will – then, if the manuscript is rejected, she goes to the next name, and the next, and so on.

Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market costs about $30 or less, and the new edition comes out around this time each year,  so it’s something you may want to put on your holiday wish list. Think of it as an investment in your writing career.

If you can afford to spend more, Jeanie suggests subscribing to one of the two monthly newsletters specifically designed to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the children’s publishing world, including new book and magazine markets for your work.  A year’s subscription to Children’s Writer, the newsletter of the Institute of Children’s Literature (, is $19, and you can try two months for free.  A year’s subscription to Children’s Book Insider ( is more (the publishers advertise that it costs about the cost of a latte – or $4.49 a month), but subscribers have online access to articles, podcasts, and other resources for the aspiring children’s author.

There are plenty of free places to find the best matches for your manuscripts as well.  Most publishers now have their catalogues online, so if there is a publisher you think may be right for your book, go to that publisher’s website and look around.

Interested in submitting to the magazine market? Go to your local library and check out a few issues of the most likely titles for your topics.  Or browse the magazines at the bookstore. Has  an article on the same topic you’re proposing been done in the last six months? Even more important, does the magazine even publish the type of story or article you want to submit? After all, why send a dog story to a dog magazine that doesn’t publish fiction? That is totally barking up the wrong tree, and a waste of your time as well as an editor’s.

For more tips on writing and publishing, check out our weekly blog. Now if you’ll excuse us, there’s a talkative squirrel in the yard that is driving us NUTS. He’d better hope that he can find the right tree, and fast!

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